Wage Gap in the Omaha Metro

By: Derek Andersen, Justas Balsys,

 and Cade Nichelson

           In 2017, there is a very large margin in the wage gap, be it in the form of gender, race, class or even educational level. Omaha is not unlike the rest of the country in terms of wage gap. Using secondary sources such as the U.S. Census, Women’s fund of Omaha, and newspaper articles, this study analyzes the wage gap of the Omaha Metro. Overall, the wage gap in the United States stands at right about 80% according to the Women’s Fund of Omaha. While some may think that is progress from the past, many states fall behind of the national threshold. This includes Nebraska. Nebraska has a wage gap average of 79% according to the Women’s Fund of Omaha.  Information included in primary source studies, along with many local resources such as the Women’s Fund of Omaha, and the Omaha World Herald to name a few, represent the actual wage gap for the whole Omaha Metro. We, as a group, want to see Nebraska as a leader on the frontier of the wage gap issue in the United States. To begin this process, we must first understand what is at hand with wage gap in the Omaha metro.


We want to focus on the wage gap nationally, as well as in Nebraska, based on class, gender, race and education. To start, we gathered scholarly articles on our 4 main topics, as well as articles directly related to Omaha, Nebraska, to find information on how the wage gap has been affecting people for years. After finding a few outstanding scholarly articles between the 3 of us, we looked through all of them to code out important information directly related to our topics. We each created an orientating memo showing possible themes we could bring out in the project. After looking at the memos over, we decided on 5 themes; these themes include: wage gap between educational levels, treatment of genders in the workplace, occupations and differences in the wage gap, leadership positions within companies and the median income between genders and ethnicities. The 5 themes required a bit more information, so we began to search for secondary data to follow up each theme. We included data from local newspaper articles and websites such as: the Women’s Fund of Omaha, Nebraskans for Peace, Omaha Magazine, and the Landscape Omaha. We also included national information from CNN and Time Magazine that had more current information on the wage gap. After carefully analyzing each piece of secondary data we were able to start bringing the information together to form the base of our project.

Findings and Analysis

Wage Gap By Educational Levels

Historical Data

Income disparity between those who continue onto higher education and those who stay with a basic high school degree or less is expected, but the extent to which it has grown over the decades is troublesome. According to the Omaha World Herald, in Omaha, the rising income disparity is the highest it has ever been with college graduates earning, on average, 56% more than high school grads. This number is up since the 51% mark in 1999 and it is the largest that has come since 1973. This figure would be expected if only a small part of the population was attending and graduating from college, but for the first time last year, college grads made up a larger portion of the workforce than did high school-only grads. This means that as more people are going to college, the more the disparity is increasing as well. This leaves those who jump straight into the workforce  living on government assistance, or working multiple low end jobs. According to Nebraskans For Peace, 40 years ago the minimum wage was 25% higher in terms of purchasing power than it is today in Nebraska. Working a full-time job at minimum wage puts you below the poverty line.

As the disparity of education creates a growing inequality between the high and low classes, the power of the money being earned is becoming worth less and less which propels the poor to become even worse off. This is a one-way track to economic situations similar to those seen in places such as Brazil and Dubai, where the rich are rich and the poor are very poor with no middle class. If the education scale were to level out to how it has been with only the more able students moving to higher education, the economy would slowly work its way back to a purposeful minimum wage and a growing middle class as it has been over the past few decades.

Degree Type

According to the Omaha World Herald, the wage gap between college graduates and everyone else is wider than it has ever been. The growing problem has become frustrating for millions of Americans, worried they are losing economic ground. On average, college graduates have earned 56% more than high school graduates in 2015. College graduates have always enjoyed economic advantages over those with less education.


According to the Women’s Fund  Of  Omaha, in Omaha, educational attainment rates were similar between males and females. However, there are noticeable racial and ethnic differences in educational attainment for the population ages 25 and older. White respondents were more likely to have some or all college completed than any other race. On the other hand, the numbers for African American and Hispanic/Latino people are cut in half. Those of Hispanic/Latino descent were more likely to have less than a high school diploma compared to the other major groups.

Nebraska vs. USA

In Nebraska, the disparity is at a level that could sustain a reasonable minimum wage. About 91% of adults in Nebraska have a high school diploma while only 29% have a bachelor’s degree or higher. The median income of the household is $53,000, which is lower than other states but relates to the prices within the market. The low prices offset the low income which makes the real purchasing power of people in Nebraska to be relatively high. As a state Nebraska has a low poverty level comparatively at only 12.5%.

Nebraska’s wage gap according to education is at a better level than most states. A moderately large middle class is still seen her unlike other states. This puts Nebraska both ahead and behind the times. Since the general trend of the world is towards a large division between the high and low class, Nebraska is behind in the sense of this division. It is also ahead as in the future a healthy middle class will likely be desired by most places and will transition back to that once again.

Treatment in the Workplace

Sexual Harassment

Historical Data

The plight for women in the workplace is not a new story. Going all the way back to women working in manufacturing in the early 20th century with abusive and controlling bosses, all the way to the modern age where women still do not earn as much and are not treated the same as men. According to Times, the term of sexual harassment was coined in 1975 by a women’s research group at Cornell University after a colleague had filed for unemployment benefits when resigning from her job. Her reason for resigning was because of unwanted physical contact that her boss had done during her time at the job. The University declined the request for a transfer of work as well as unemployment on the grounds that she quit for “personal reasons”. This conflict made headlines and sparked a movement of women coming forward from their jobs to say their sides of the story in the workplace.

This started nationwide movements that worked to keep women safe and happy in the workplace. The movement is still heavily in the process of working today but it has taken a huge step from where it started. Equality and safety in workplace should be a given at this point in history but it is still a struggle today.

Sexual Harassment in 2016

According to a survey conducted by Aware.org, 52% of women have experienced some sort of sexual harassment in the workplace. Of those women, 27% of those were harassed by coworkers and 17% were harassed by superiors. 12% of those were threatened to lose their job if they didn’t comply with the requests of the sexual harassers. Not only is this a commonly occurring problem, it also is difficult to report. About 50% of employees stated that they would not know who to talk to about sexual mistreatment on the job. Not only do they get harassed, they don’t know how to get the help they need. The job fields that have the highest occurrence are in the traditional office scene.

Women in the workplace are not treated with the respect they deserve. Although some reports are filed by men, the vast majority are from women. With all the reports that come in, it is expected that at least twice as many are not filed out of fear of retaliation from employers or coworkers. This causes a negative workplace attitude and inhibits people from being comfortable where they are. Although movements are working towards helping these victims, it is still a tough situation for those who can’t file out of fear of the consequences.


Through research, we found some scary statistics dealing with discrimination between gender and race within the workplace. For gender, women only hold 45% of the jobs within Fortune 500 companies. They hold 37% of of mid-level management positions, 25% of first-level management positions, 19% board of directors positions, and only 4% of CEO positions. According to Cnn.money.com, 69% of blacks and 59% of hispanics say that current discrimination in the workplace has affected them in their lives. 77% of black women say that if they make a mistake, they lose all credibility in the workplace. Only 1.2% of workplace discrimination claims results in financial compensation. 35% of discrimination claims were based on race in 2016. Black and Hispanic families have reached all-time high poverty levels with 38% and 32% respectively.

In Omaha, the discrimination is seen within many businesses and companies. Equally qualified black families and women are earning less and as a result cannot provide for their families. They are also held to unfair standard, Uneasiness in the workplace occurs because a mistake can result in a loss of credibility. Although the fight against racism and sexism has been going on for years, it still has a ways to go.

Nebraska vs. USA

FY 2009 FY 2010 FY 2011 FY 2012 FY 2013 FY 2014 FY 2015 FY 2016
TOTAL CHARGES 65 87 95 75 77 56 108 101
% of US total charges 0.1% 0.1% 0.1% 0.1% 0.1% 0.1% 0.1% 0.1%
Race 30 28 30 23 26 14 22 26
% of US race charges 0.1% 0.1% 0.1% 0.1% 0.1% 0.0% 0.1% 0.1%
% of total state charges 46.2% 32.2% 31.6% 30.7% 33.8% 25.0% 20.4% 25.7%
Sex 15 20 22 24 26 19 24 25
% of US sex charges 0.1% 0.1% 0.1% 0.1% 0.1% 0.1% 0.1% 0.1%
% of total state charges 23.1% 23.0% 23.2% 32.0% 33.8% 33.9% 22.2% 24.8%


Nebraska as a state accounts for only .1% of national complaints according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This stat seems to mean that our state is more progressive but actually can mean the exact opposite. There is a fear among people in Nebraskan workplaces that stops them from filing charges. The conservative attitude doesn’t support the voices of the victims that are all over. In more progressive states the number of charges seem to be higher. In Nevada for example, has about 1.5 times as many people as Nebraska, but account for over 10 times as many charges with the EEOC. As a state, Nebraska’s statistics are difficult to track because news reports on such a scarcely filed charge are rare and outdated.

Nebraska as a state is a deceptively discriminated area. In just looking at the geography of Omaha and other cities, it is clear to see. The north side holds the blacks, the south side holds the Hispanics and the west holds the whites. This discrimination carries over into the workplace and creates an uneasiness around people from other regions. This is the primary cause of the discrimination within the workplace in Omaha and can be seen in other places around the globe.

Occupation and differences in wage gap

Occupation differences do not only exist in the Omaha metro, but also nationwide. Omaha has a large differential of women vs men in certain sectors which also include different median wages because of those occupation differences. To get an understanding of the occupation differences in the Omaha metro, according to the Women’s Fund of Omaha, “The primary source of data for this report is the American Community Survey (ACS), an annual survey created by the U.S. Census Bureau”. The first piece of information to understand from the ACS is that the majority gender in the Omaha metro is women, at 50.5%. The ACS went to the Omaha metro and took part in looking into 6 major career fields to find the occupations of women. “The ACS uses six main occupation career clusters: management, professional, and related occupations; service occupations; farming, fishing and forestry occupations; construction, extraction, maintenance and repair occupations; and production, transportation and material moving occupations”. According to the Women’s Fund of Omaha and this chart, we see the percentages of the different amounts of women in their respective career fields.


Specially, we can see from the provided chart that women dominate in the field of management, professional and related occupations. Although this might be the highest amount of positions in the population by occupation, do not let the percentage fool you. This information does not mean that 40.6% of women in the Omaha metro carry positions of management or higher positions. These can consist of Human resources, accountants and other career fields that can be relatable to those. We also see that the other part of the majority of women in the Omaha metro are working in the sales and office occupations which can include retailing jobs, over-the-phone jobs and other relatable jobs. Obviously when thinking about women jobs and their career fields, we can understand why less than 1% of the population of women in the Omaha metro working the farming, fishing, construction, extraction and repair occupations as well. Taking a look at ownership occupations of Women in the Omaha metro, we can see that even though 26% of firms or businesses are owned by women,that still lag behind men and their 48% of ownership of firms and businesses in Omaha. We also see that if we even added the 21% of firms and businesses owned by both men and women, it still falls short of the 48% of the firms and businesses owned by just men, as according to the Women’s Fund of Omaha.


According to the ACS, “It would appear that the characteristics of the Omaha area mirror national trends.” This is corresponding to the information about the ownership of firms and businesses between women and men. Just taking a quick glance at the different median incomes of all 6 career fields put together, according to the ACS, “The median household income for an individual male in the Omaha MSA area is $34,360 per year. For an individual female it is $24,852, showing that women earn 72.3% of their male counterparts”. We can see that Omaha, in general lacks behind the nation in wage gap according to occupation but about 5-6% points. This is unacceptable for a state who boasts low unemployment rates as well as one of the best cities to raise families. Something must be done to help relieve some of the wage gap and gap of business ownership.

Overall, what the research tells us is that there is a large discrepancy between occupations of men and women in the Omaha metro. While it does follow trends of what the nationwide picture looks like, it also tells us that our wage gap on average between women and men is lacking even more so than the nationwide picture. We also understand now that although a good chunk of businesses owned or partially owned are by women in the Omaha metro, it still is behind the amount of firms and businesses that are outright owned by men.

Leadership Positions within companies

One of our themes consisted of the leadership positions in the Omaha metro and the wage gap that corresponded with those said occupations of leadership. There have been many discrepancies between the leadership occupations in the Omaha metro and the wage gap but the matter of the fact is that the wage gap compared with Omaha and the United States is quite lacking compared to the national averages that have been discovered. Omaha is home to many important corporations in the metro which has many boards of directors that are in charge of the companies. We see a large discrepancy in those corporations. According to the Women’s Fund of Omaha, men take up more than 80% of board positions in the metro area. For more specific examples, a corporation such as Berkshire Hathaway contains 12 board of directors, which only 3 of those 12 directors are women. A corporation such as Werner Enterprises as well as Green Plains, consists of 0 women on their board of directors. Here, we have a chart that corresponds to the most important companies in the Omaha metro from the Women’s Fund of Omaha.


Not only is the number of women on various boards of directors concerning, but so is the evidence of the lack of leadership positions in any company across Omaha and the nation. Overall comparing Omaha board of directors with nationwide numbers of the amount of high level women, we see according to the Women’s fund of Omaha that only 17% of women nationally hold a C-Suite positions, and even more so staggering only 37% of women hold a manager position at any given company in the nation. With entry level professional positions, it is closer to a 50/50 spilt but still men hold a lead over women at a 55% compared to 45% holdings of the positions. According to the Women’s Fund of Omaha, “Because of these low rates of women’s participation in leadership, the United States falls short of the world’s top ten countries for women in leadership”. Not only are women in Omaha lacking behind compared to the nation’s numbers itself, women of Omaha are lacking internationally even more so when comparing the nation’s numbers internationally. Coming back to comparing some of the Omaha statistics on leadership and nation, we will take a look at the S&P 500.  According to the chart that was created by the Women’s Fund of Omaha Women in Leadership, we see that only 4% of 20 total women are CEO’s of those S&P 500 companies, and that the average of board of directors that are women in the S&P 500 is similar to the average of women on the board of directors of the major corporations in Omaha.


Considering the leadership positions that exist in the Omaha metro, according to a survey that was conducted by the Women’s Fund of Omaha, an average of 40% of women concluded that because of their gender, there was an inhibition towards their success or potential compared to only 11% of men that were asked the same. This is quite important to note because if women outright believe that they cannot succeed in the same light as their male counterparts, they are already at a disadvantage from the beginning in terms of morale and confidence. There needs to be a call of action to reduce the amount of women that believe that are inhibited in their career fields just because of their gender. Overall, the whole meaning behind the research that has been done in the Omaha metro and comparing it to the rest of the United States, we can see that Omaha still lags a little behind the rest of the United States in terms of leadership positions for women in major companies. Women are lacking high positions in the nation’s leading S&P 500 companies. Even in the major corporations that exist in the Omaha metro. We now have seen that there is a real problem with the occupations, as well as leadership positions for women especially in the Omaha metro. We are no different than the rest of the nation, and in some terms worse off. We would like to make a call to action for the increase of service by women in the business community, to become a leader in the nation for reducing wage gap, not a follower.

Median Income between Genders and Ethnicities

The wage gap between genders and ethnicities has been growing over the years and has been showing no signs of changing any time soon. There is a noticeable wage gap between the white, African American, and Hispanic/Latino men and women living in the United States. There are a few common factors that determine the wage a person can make. Those factors include: education, experience, region, and marital status. The largest determinant of wage is thru marital status among all men and women. Another determinant of wage among race is through location and housing.


According to William Rodgers III, writer of the article, “Male Sub-metropolitan black-white Wage Gaps: New Evidence for the 1980s”, when it comes to white and black men, the wage gap of the suburbs and inner cities around the United States are broken down into changes in measurable characteristics, the prices of measurable characteristics, discrimination and unsolvable skills, and changes in white earnings inequality. Price and Mills did a study in 1985 focusing on the wage gap strictly between white and black men. Results from a test 10 years earlier were compared to a more recent test in 1989 showing the wage gap between white and black men living in the city, as well as the suburbs. These statistics refer to the pay wage of all men of any education. white men living in the city had a change of -.07 while white men in the suburbs had a change of -.11. However, for black men living in the city and the suburbs, there was no change.

According to Hendrik Van Den Berg a UNL professor of economics, about 70 percent of the average American’s’ wealth consists of having equity in their residence. In 2007, median household wealth including housing was only $43,600. When focusing on Nebraska alone, we found some valuable information about the wage gap in Omaha. Men living in this city who work full-time year-round have a median income of $48,614, which is almost $10,000 more than what women make doing the same thing.



According to Raine Dozier, “Accumulated Disadvantage: The Growth in the Black-White Wage  Gap Among Women”, even though the wage gap is greater between white and black men, the wage gap between black and white women has been constantly changing since the 1980’s. In fact, from 1980-2002, the wage gap between black and white women was recorded at an all-time high of 18%. In dollar terms, the pay wage gap in 1980 was 69 cents, and in 2002, it grew to $2.85, which is over 4x more than 20 years prior.

Another determinant of the wage gap between men and women depends on marital status. Per the Women’s Fund of Omaha, of women 15-50 years of age, about 6.5% have given birth in the last 12 months. 32.8% of those women were recorded unmarried. Hispanic women have the highest birthrate compared to White and Black women. The figure below shows the percentages of Women’s marital status by race/ethnicity.


            According to the Woman’s Fund of Omaha, the growth in this gap has been attributed to skills mismatch, deindustrialization, and a labor market that puts low-skill workers into low-pay jobs and high-skill workers into high-pay jobs. Skills mismatch is the idea that as times were constantly changing, new and improved skills were needed to complete certain jobs. The mismatch shifted a demand for more highly-skilled workers, which pushed out black and white women who brought differential skills to the labor market.

When focusing directly on Omaha, we gained information from the Women’s Fund of Omaha. Per the article, “How are Women Doing in Omaha?”, the median income for women in Omaha was last measured at $28,558. The article also stated what every white woman makes for every $1 a white man makes. A white woman makes $.75; a Hispanic woman makes $.59 and an African American woman makes $.54.



According to the Women’s Fund of Omaha, of people currently living in houses, just over 66% of them actually own the home. On average, about 71.5% of white people own the home they are living in, while the other 28.5% rents. On the other hand,  61% of African Americans are more likely to rent a home, while the other 39% own their homes. When it comes to Hispanic/Latino householders, they are almost even between renting and owning homes. A married couple with a family are the most likely people to purchase a house. Non-family households are fairly equally split in terms of owning versus renting their home, while families headed by a single male or female are less likely to own their home. When looking at just married couples, we see that 86.6% of them own a home entirely. Among single parents with no partner, 56.4% of males own their home and 46.9% of females own theirs. In households with no family, renters and owners of homes are about even.



In conclusion, the wage gap in the Omaha metro echoes national patterns.  There is a wage gap by gender and race.  the effects that the wage gap has on families and communities are great.  The issue must be addressed this issue with more urgency.  From our research we have seen the dramatic effects that the level of education carries on the general population in terms of wages. While changing the wage gap between ethnicities and races might be difficult, our call to action would be to educate more of the population about how education affects the overall wage gap. We believe that if we can concentrate in allowing more of the minority population to achieve a higher standing of education, that will be our most efficient way to reducing the wage gap.




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